Help us choose a cover for the new booklet

We have almost finished work on the new booklet published by the Monastery. This will be our first booklet since the beginning of the year after, when we published ‘St Patrick’s Breastplate’. We are still grateful to Kh Frederica Mathewes-Green for writing the text for that.

The new booklet is called The Voice in Confession and is built around the podcasts on Confession recorded for AFRadio. It follows the full notes I took for those recordings, more than half of which were not developed in the podcasts.

The illustrations of this new booklet are once again created and donated to the Monastery by Dr Mihaela Schiopu, who has also painted the images we used for our booklet ‘On Prayer’. The inside of the booklet will contain ten portraits of contemporary Elders, drawn by Dr Schiopu.

For the covers, she has painted two portraits, and I find it difficult to decide which to use for the first cover (the one with the title) and which for the last cover (the back of the book).

I include both of them below. I tend to think that ‘Cover version 2’ is a better option for a first cover (the composition is more suitable for the purpose, and I’m fascinated by the power in that gaze). At the same time, though, I also love the gentleness and peacefulness in ‘Cover version 1’.

What do you think? Which one should we use for the Main Cover?

Cover version 1

Cover Version 1

Cover version 2

Cover version 2

92 responses

    • It seems as if most people like that cover. I wonder why. It must be the fact that he looks straight at us.

  • Yes i agree, option 2 should be the front and option 1 the back. Option 2 looks like a very purposeful, discerning ” approaching confession” face, and the gentleness in 1 looks like the freedom you feel from forgivness after. May it be blessed!

  • Dear Fr Seraphim,
    My first thoughts were — how brave to ask for input, yet your invitation speaks to community, and I appreciate that. My first thoughts, which I tend to rely on, is that if the first image was reversed, so that it was the elder’s right ear that was facing me, I would want that on the cover — it would be as though he were hearing my confession. And at the end of the confession, at the back of the book, the elder would be gazing into me, seeing me and and offering his thoughts.
    Blessings to you in your studies and travels, and thank you for this great task you have taken up.

  • Absolutely No 1. Taking in what is said but not staring (as in 2) which could be seen as judgmental.

    • I totally and full-heartedly agree with you, dear father. The moment I saw them, I had two instant thought: I love the first version, but I’m certain most people prefer the second. That’s why I asked the question and it looks as if that instinct was right. I’ll try to somehow lighten up the facing portrait, although that will be difficult to do (this is a real painting, not a computer one, so light can only be brought from the ‘outside’, so to say). Also, the details of the face are all painted using light colours, so the background has to be dark enough to bring those details into the foreground through contrast. We’ll se what we can do. Thank you for taking the time to share your opinion (and thank you for making me feel less in a minority). Please pray for me and the Monastery.

    • Thank you, father Dragos. Thank you for taking the time to share your opinion, and (especially) thank you for keeping me and the Monastery in your prayer.

    • By far the favourite of most people who wrote to share their opinion. Thank you, dear Connie. Give my love in Christ to everyone.

    • Yes, you seem to be right, dear Darla. It will be the main cover, perhaps slightly edited. Thanks for writing.

    • So do I, dear Barbara, but it looks like we are the minority. We’ll try to edit the second version to bring more light into it. Hopefully, that will work better. Thank you for writing. I appreciate it.

      • I like version 1 too. No doubt. I think to relate better to the one who confess.
        Second one looks more like a Father Confessor.

  • I am captivated by icon number two with its direct, unwavering gaze. So too, during confession, we must direct an unwavering gaze into the state of our own soul.

    • Precisely! That is my thought exactly – this is the gaze DURING confession, not at the beginning. It is too intense for the beginning of confession, it scares me, it drives me away. Yet, I do realise that it works better as a first cover. Thank you for confirming something I also saw in these images. I thought I was the only one.

  • I’m not much help because I love both. If you like #2 use it as the cover. It seems welcoming. #1 is full of awe and peace and is inviting as well. Thank you for the update.

    • My absolute pleasure, dear Linda (Elizabeth). The only reason I’m in doubt is that the facing gaze is a bit too intense for me. It’s almost too intense, almost intrusive, somehow. It’s the gaze I am used to during confession, not at the beginning of confession. On the other hand, the profile is a bit too distant, too caught within his own thoughts. Thank you for adding your comment – I appreciate it a lot, I know how busy you are.

  • Your blessing Father,

    Cover 2 better illustrates the inner groanings from the depths of the soul when preparing for confession. There is an honesty about the gaze that rings of authentic being. The first image would better suit the back, as in the ending of confession, there is contemplation and a release of tension.


    • Dear Arsenios (what a beautiful name!), it looks as if that will be the final choice. The reason I’m still in doubt is because the gaze is a bit too intense for me, almost intrusive in a way. I don’t know. I’ll simply count what people vote and obey. What better solution for a monk? Please say a prayer to St Arsenios for me and the Monastery.

  • Dear Father.

    You can’t go wrong with either but I like the idea of seeing the face straight on (#2), as you have taken in the content of the book.

    With love in the Lord,

    • I see… Yes, I hadn’t thought about that. Most people seem to think that the facing one is a better first cover precisely because it looks straight at us and invites un in. I do understand that point of view, too.

    • That’s my opinion, too. Most people prefer the second one, though, and I do see their point of view. The first one is more gentle (to my mind), but the second one is a better first cover (it looks directly at you, it invites you into a conversation). Thank you for taking the time to comment and let me know what you think. I appreciate that.

  • Dear Father Seraphim,

    I agree with your choice. For the cover you should take Nr. 2…, because the calm and gentle face is (hopefully) the reaction of the confession.

    Greetings from Germany and asking for your blessings

    • Thank you for your comment, dear Stephanie. I was just afraid that the gaze may be slightly too intense somehow. I pray. I always pray, in my silly, weak way. Please pray for me and the Monastery, too. We need all the support we can get. My love in Christ to Germany 🙂 I may be there next year, doing research for my fellowship at Oxford.

  • I like cover version #2 It is a peaceful gaze into my eyes and asks the questions So tell me what have you done that separates you from our Lord?

    • That is very interesting. I hadn’t looked at it like that, but I can see it now. Thank you!

    • Most people seem to agree to that. Thank you for adding your advice. It very much appreciate it.

    • All right, so it’s an ecumenical majority… 🙂 Greeting and love in Christ, dear Jeremy. Think of me in sunny (I can only imagine it sunny) Texas, freezing and covered in snow in Moscow (I’m loving it, actually – it reminds me of my years in my monastery in Moldavia)

  • Number 1 suggesting reflection, preparation while overviewing the past… and exactly for that, it speaks about the future. Also it inspires more intimacy, discretion, gently inviting in such a personal ritual. Number 2 is very intense and might comunicate an exagerate eagerness for knowing, finding, and it could intimidate.
    Thank you for bwing so king to ask our opinion, and many thanks to Mihaela for her work.
    Greetings from Montreal,

    • I agree. Somehow, the intensity in the gaze of the facing elder scares me and drives me away. On the other hand, that (precisely that) is the gaze of my spiritual father when hearing my confession – 100% there, in the moment. Greeting to Montreal from Moscow 🙂 One day, I shall visit that beautiful country of yours.

  • Hi Fr Seraphim, Libby and I vote cover version 2. As Libby mentioned, “No holding back next to him.” Praying for your studies in Moscow. Brian

    • Well, you are both reasonable, clear-headed people (you must be in order to rule that small army of yours!), so your vote weighs heavily… Give my best to everyone, starting with Libby. I miss you all. Greatly.

  • I prefer number two. He looks like he is inviting confession. He looks nonthreatening, peaceful and open to hear what the person has to say. The number one figure looks to be in turmoil to me

    • I know… I personally prefer the first one, but I’m also aware that the second one works better. Thanks for confirming that to me, Khouria.

  • I like #2 for the cover, it’s as if he’s directly inviting you to come confess. Definitely an attention-grabber.

    • Yes, I think the painter thought about that aspect, too – as a first cover, it needs to catch one’s attention. Thanks for pointing that out to me.

  • Your Blessing Father…
    I definitely feel the call to confession for #2…#1 is better suited for the inside or back cover. Thank you for asking.

    • Yes, the fact that he is looking straight ahead, directly at us, does work as an invitation. That’s a very good observation, thank you for making me aware of it. Of course I ask – we edit these booklets for you, so you should enjoy them. Everyone involved in helping me write, illustrate, edit, publish and distribute them take great pride in how beautiful our booklets are. They are beautiful objects in themselves.

    • I know, I know… This is why I also feel more attracted to that one, although my mind understands that from all other points of view, the facing one simply works better as a main cover.

  • Thank you Fr. Seraphim,
    #1 has a look of surprise and question with the lack of wrinkles on the forehead.
    I vote for #2.

    • Thank you for pointing that out. You are right, the lack of wrinkles adds to a sense of wonder somehow…

  • My vote for Cover Two. I don’t see it as threatening at all. It is, perhaps intense, but I personally find it inviting me to the healing of repentance.

    The Cover One expression seems to be sharing advice, but Confession has to come first, then the blessed direction.

    from sunny Texas
    Isabel (Elizabeth) Stone

    • Thank you, dear Elizabeth. You must be right, because the majority of people perceive openness and kindness in his gaze. We’ll go with that one (maybe just brightening up the background a bit, if we can find a solution for that). Thank you for writing and sharing your opinion. I appreciate it.

  • I honestly don’t really like either of them. The black background seeems too forbidding almost scary! And if I had to pick one it would have to be the one where his face is turned away. When I approach confession I am usually in such fear and trembling before God that I gaze very intently on the icon of Christ to whom I am speaking and barely look at my sweet gentle priest who is standing on my left side also looking at Christ.

    • You have a very good point about the background, dear Michaela. I have the same worry, although I see very few people noted that. Anyway, I’ve asked our editor to bring some light into the background, but that will be difficult. First, he is working with a real painting (this is not done on a computer), which limits what he can do. Second, the black background is necessary in order to bring to light (by contract) the details of the painting, which are all built with light. We’ll se what he can do. Thank you for confirming something I was also thinking.

  • Hello Father! I vote for Number 2 I like the looking =g directly at me It seems as if he is asking “My child what do you wish to confess? What is keeping you from growing closer to our Lord?” Elaine

    • Yes, that seems to be what most people perceive, so that must be right. We’ll go with that one. Thanks for adding your interpretation, dear Elaine. I appreciate it. Give my love in Christ to everyone.

  • For what its worth…
    Cover #1. There is a sense of Someone speaking to both the viewer and the monk. The glance of the monk toward The Voice invites the viewer to relate to the monk via the Voice not directly. Our relationships are, after all, through Him Who speaks, not directly. In confession we are invited into right relationship with others through the Voice of forgiveness and reconciliation — Christ Jesus — The Voice and the Word.

    • I do agree. I actually prefer the first image, but we’ll go with the second, as most people seem to see something else. They perceive a sense of distance, of non-involvement in the fact that he is looking away. By comparison, the direct gaze works like an open window, drawing you inside, towards He Who is beyond the father confessor. This was a very good discussion, I’m happy I asked the question – I learnt a great deal from what people have seen in these images. Thank you for writing, fr Thomas.

    • Thank you, father. It looks like you are right and we’ll go with that image for the main cover. Thank you for adding your opinion. I appreciate it.

  • It seems that cover version 2 engages the reader and invites him into the conversation; cover version 1 seems to be reflective, as if contemplating what has been read.

    • Yes, that is the reading most people have of the two portraits, so we’ll go with that. I was a bit afraid that the second one could be too intense, but I see that most people don’t perceive that. Thank you for writing, dear Josh.

    • I agree, dear Christina. That was my feeling, too, which is why I wanted to see if I was the only one thinking that way. It looks like we are the minority, though. Most people perceive kindness and openness in his gaze, an invitation into the booklet. We’ll probably go with it, but I’ve asked our editor to lighten it up as much as possible. Not sure how he’ll do it, but let’s hope for good results. Thank you for writing. I appreciate it.

    • Well, it looks as if that will be the final cover. We’ll try to lighten it up a bit, so that it doesn’t look too intense. Thanks for writing.

  • Dear Fr Serafim, thank you for your prayers! Boy, do we need them!
    Would like very much to speak with you on your return to England, to give you an update, get your advice.
    Wish we were with you at all those wonderful, holy sites!
    So glad you are able to make the pilgrimage. Again, thanks for your prayers for all of us who need them. May the Lord draw us all to Himself.
    I really like both images–I know that’s not very helpful 🙂 –D prefers # 2.
    The booklet, I know already, is going to be good. And very helpful. Thank you for writing it. It’s good that it will be available for purchase soon. It will benefit many.
    I hope you get to meet and concelebrate liturgy with Fr Artemy in Moscow. I’ve heard a lot about him from friends who’ve been there.
    May God richly bless your pilgrimage. I know you will share the details about it and the seminar with us all, when you can. We look forward to hearing all about it, in due course

    • Thank you for your kind message – please give my love in Christ to David. Yes, the second option seems to be preferred by the majority of people, so we’ll go with that. Moscow is great. I wish I were here on a real pilgrimage and not have to work every day for the university, but I’m grateful for the weekends. Thank God for everything. I’ll be back in Oxford after November 20, perhaps we can talk then.

  • Dear Father Serafim,

    May I first congratulate you on everything you’re doing, truly inspirational. It’s such a blessing to listen to your teachings.
    I am scared as well like another person mentioned alreadg by both images. The old man brings focus on the belief being more for the elderly, I am not sure how this would inspire the younger generations. I would expect an image with more light to bring more focus on the salvation that a proper confession can bring.
    But if I must choose, I choose #1, it shows our belief and hope despite our sins for forgiveness, for salvation. #2 makes me think the gaze is looking away with less hope… but these are just a few thoughts of mine

    May God bless you at all times. Greetings from The Netherlands, from a fellow Romanian at heart 🙂

  • I like both, but prefer #2. He’s looking at me — and his gaze is so tender and encouraging, I would want to hear what he has to say about confession, or have him hear my confession.

  • This website has just today come to my attention. I searches a bit on the site of the Metropolia and Monasteries on Europe. Very sorry that I didn’t visit Les Rosiers while I visited France at the Conference in 1999. Did visit mostly Russian, Greek Monasteries and Churches.
    As I look at the two “Cover Possibilities” offered to a choice of some kind.
    I do prefer #1. Somehow, the face looking up to God, as the Monk listens, helps me to feel and experience more “TRUST” that my thought, sin, prayer, request is led up to the Mercy, Compassion, and Love that
    the Holy Trinity has for even the smallest of creatures, who expects whole-heartedly a pouring out of Himself into the present capacity of my soul.
    Actually I am not worthy to even send out my choice being so far away, yet so near at the Heart of God’s Presence, here, now in this little room where I am simply reaching out and accepting God’s response in this dark, silent time between called “Dawn”!
    So grateful to have found this site, and listened to Father Seraphim’s talk on Prayer.

  • not easy
    at the first look ,#2 seems better (#1 somehow scary ,#2 friendly)
    but ,
    by more view of them #1 seems he is praying and leaving himself to God , while #2 is the face of a hollow, clear man with Holy Spirit who is giving himself from God to all the people , somehow as elders(saints now) Porfyrios and Paisios (from Greece).

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